Jun 16, 2011

Gafni Attacks Over Lack Of Construction Of Ashqelon Hospital

What Happened Over A Year Ago
A year ago the entire country was concerned about the plan to build the new emergency room in Barzilai Hospital in Ashqelon. The start of construction was being delayed, as graves had been found on location, and Haredi groups were fighting against digging them up.

The Haredi community came under fire for its opposition to the plan, with such claims as "they are concerned more about the dead than the living". We were told how urgent it is that construction get under way immediately, the south was under intense rocket fire, with potential for getting worse, and they needed to prepare for the possibility of mass casualties, which coul donly be done by building the new emergency room right away.

Eventually the Haredi approach was rejected, and the government decided to approve the construction plan. They used a blitzkrieg to clear the ground of all graves immediately, again under the guise of the urgency of the matter.

Moshe Gafni In Knesset
Yesterday, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni stood up in the Knesset and strongly criticized the media and the MKs who had fought so strongly for the construction plan a year ago. (source: Ladaat.net)

MK Moshe Gafni said:
Over a year ago the ground shook when graves had been found on the site of the Barzilai Hospital in Ashqelon, and as a result of this the protected emergency room was not built, despite the fact that the hospital is on the front lines of the southern front close to the Gaza Strip where rockets, Kassams and Grads are falling. Everyone was enraged that the Haredim are not allowing them to build. 
They said Haredim do not care about  pikuach nefesh. They attacked the haredi public for not allowing the construction to begin. I screamed in the media and in the committees that they are not building not because of graves and Haredim, but because the Ministry of Finance is not letting them.
I have a long list of articles that were published with headlines declaring the Haredim find more importance with the dead than with the living. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman presented an alternate plan that would allow the construction without needing to dig up the graves. The alternate plan was rejected, and Litzman was vilified. This is the first health minister that is shaking up the system. Secular health ministers previously did nothing on behalf of the hospital, and specifically by him was there a wild attack against the haredim that the dead have overcome basic logic. Within days all the graves were removed.
I waited to see the next day, after the removal of the graves, the tractors on site starting to build. After all, it was a great pikuach nefesh. Where are the MKs who screamed back then? Where is MK Zevulun Orlev? MK Rachel Adetto? MK Yoel Hasson? Everyone screamed PIKUACH NEFESH! Now, a year and 3 months have passed and not a single grain of the hospital has been built. What happened? Is there no longer a southern front? The dangers have not gone away, they have gotten more serious! It was obvious nobody was intending to build the hospital. It has become clear once again that all the energy of the hilonim and national religious is not pikuach nefesh, but simply the desire to attack the haredim. It has been mroe than a year and there has not been a word, or even half a word, in the media.
I think that if we want the hospital to be built, the haredim will have to plant a fictitious grave and announce there are graves and one cannot remove them. There is no other way to get everyone worked up, unless it is made into a haredi issue. There is a limit to hypocrisy. Where is the pikuach nefesh everyone was screaming about? The hypocrisy and the lies screams out to heaven.
That is a great speech by Gafni, and he makes a great point.

The only question I have is why they would make a big deal about such a thing? If they never intended to build the emergency room, why start the whole fight? just to remove a few ancient graves? What was the purpose in the first place? the result I understand - turning it into a haredi issue to heat up the conflict and get it done, but what was the original intent?


  1. Probably what happened is what happens to a lot of public projects in this country. There was a crying need for a new emergency room in Ashkelon and to missile proof it. The press started a public outcry into why the plans had been sitting around for so long and yet ground hadn't been broken. The relevant ministers quickly got their act into order and got the Otzar to agree to finance it. Then the Hamas stopped firing missiles for a few months, the Otzar started dragging its feet with the money, the press was too busy crying about the price of gasoline and cottage cheese to notice and nothing got built.

    This doesn't mean that there was no need for the building or that the people pushing it were doing so in good faith. It is demagoguery on Gafni's part to assert otherwise.

    You should remember that there was a high profile pan-Haredi campaign to put saving graves (i.e. not moving them respectfully to somewhere else) before saving lives and it turned out in the end that the graves were pagan anyway.

  2. Rafi:

    No, it's not demagoguery on Gafni's part. What you wrote in your comment is an explanation but not a justification. The need for the underground wing is still there, and when the missiles start again -- and in much greater numbers than before -- the need for the wing to have been built will become very painfully clear.

    There are many very frustrating things about Israel, but the fact that the Otzar has the power -- by itself -- not to implement an important life-saving decision is one of the most frustrating.

  3. Gafni has a point and a good one.

  4. I seem to recall that they couldn't dig up a tree or something which the environmental groups jumped on. Seems dead people are ok, live trees are not

  5. correct. initially, there was a delay because of an old tree. it took some timem, btu they removed the tree and replanted it elsewhere.

    even with the graves being pagan, there is no reason to dig them up if we are not going to build. Just because they were pagans doesnt mean we should remove them. only when it is absolutely necessary. to build the emergency room was absolutely necessary. but if we werent going to build it, then it was not necessary.


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